Inside a Computer: The Kernel

The kernel is a critical program for any computer to operate. It makes up the core framework of a computer’s operating system (OS). The kernel has unlimited access to everything in the computer, which it needs to manage the computer effectively. After the bootloader, it is the first program to to run when you turn your computer on. After loading, the kernel handles the loading of the rest of the OS, as well as many other key aspects of your computer’s operation.

The kernel handles input/output (I/O) requests between hardware and software. Hardware, like your computer’s hard drive, and software, like Microsoft Word, cannot communicate directly with one another. So, when you type a document in Word and want to save it, something has to tell the hard drive that Word would like to save something to it. That is what the kernel’s job is. The kernel acts as a bridge between computer software and computer hardware.

The kernel handles requests made to the central processing unit (CPU). All of your programs need to be processed in order to do what you need them to do. The kernel decides which programs get to be processed and when, so that processing can be a smooth transition from one program to the next.

The kernel also manages random access memory (RAM). Your computer has a limited amount of RAM, and all your programs need some RAM when they are open and running. The kernel decides which programs get which sections of RAM, and also handles problems if your computer runs out of available RAM.

The kernel also handles everything that is connected to your computer, like your keyboard, mouse, flash drives, speakers, etc. The kernel makes sure all these devices have the resources they need to function, and allow them to communicate with the various programs on your computer.

Everything the kernel does, it does in a protected part of the computer, called kernel space. You, as the user, do everything you can do in a part called user space. These two spaces never interact directly, which prevents users from making mistakes which could damage the kernel. This is also why a program can crash without the entire computer crashing.

The kernel is the core of any computer system. It is the bridge between the physical world of hardware and the virtual world of software. It handles every request to a computer, from typing to saving to listening to music. The kernel is the core.

The Dark Web: What is it?

The dark web has become a popular topic of discussion, both on television and on the Internet. I have seen several companies offering “dark web protection”, claiming they can protect your information from being sold on the dark web. But just what is the “dark web”?

The dark web is all of the websites and web content that can be found on darknets. Darknets are networks that exist on the Internet, but can’t be accessed by regular means. These darknets could be small peer-to-peer networks, networks where people connect directly to each other, or they could be larger networks operated by organizations. Tor and I2P are two examples of these larger networks.

You likely are reading this article using a web browser like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Opera. Darknets, and the dark web, cannot be accessed through these browsers. You need a special browser to access the dark web. The browser you use depends on the network you use. Tor and I2P each has a browser to access its darknet.

So, how does the dark web work? When you connect to the dark web, your information, like your IP address, is routed through several other computers before reaching its destination. This routing hides your identity, guaranteeing anonymity. This high level of encryption means users geolocation and IP address cannot be found, nor can you get that information about the host. So, unlike on a regular website, where you IP address is unencrypted and can be traced, on the dark web, you are completely anonymous. This allows users to hold discussions and blogs without fear of their identities being compromised.

This anonymity has, of course, also allowed criminal activity to take place on the dark web. Illegal pornography, money laundering, black markets, hacking services, fraud, phishing scams, and terrorism all exist on the dark web. Black markets have been known to offer illegal drugs, weapons, credit cards, passports, social security numbers, and other illegal content. However, various law enforcement agencies have been able to bring down several of the popular black markets and child porn sites that used to be found on the dark web.

While the dark web does allow criminal activity to take place, not everything on it is criminal. It allows your information to be safe, which is something that everyone wants. It allows people to speak their mind without fear of persecution. It allows people to make a stand against corrupt governments around the world. And, overall, it makes sure your information stays your information.

Open Source: What is it?

You may have heard the term “Open Source” before and wondered, what is open source? What software is open source? How do I get open source software? More than likely, you use something that is open source every day.

Open source, or more specifically open source software, is computer software that has been released to the world for free. But it is not the software itself that is released, but the source code. Source code is the code that makes up a program. It’s what runs on your computer when you have a program open. Source code is the program. Open source means that anyone can get this source code, and do whatever they want with it. They can just learn from it. They can redistribute it to others. They can even change the source code to add to the program. They are totally free to do with it as they choose.

This is quite different from most software, which is closed source, also called proprietary. Things like Microsoft Office and Windows 10 are proprietary. You pay for the software, then you use the software within the terms to which you agreed. You cannot change or even see the source code which makes up these programs. The source code is “closed” to you.

Some examples of open source software include Linux, WordPress, LibreOffice, Chromium, Mozilla Firefox, and Android. Their source code is “open” to you. You can do with it as you choose. It is also free of charge.

All open source software is licensed. The license is how the copyright holder makes his/her software open source, and it lets users know what they are allowed to do with the source code. Some open source licenses include GNU General Public License, MIT License, and Apache License.

Open source software is a great way for individuals and businesses to save money on their software needs. Most proprietary software types have open source alternatives, allowing you to do everything you need to do without any proprietary software, and therefore, not having to pay anything.

Net Neutrality: What is it?

You may have seen the term “Net Neutrality” being thrown around a lot on the Internet lately. As of June 11, 2018, Net Neutrality is officially gone. But, what does that mean? What even is net neutrality? Is it good? Is it bad? How does this affect me?

Well, net neutrality is the idea that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) can’t discriminate based on who you are, the kind of websites you visit, what you are using to visit those websites, or anything else. With net neutrality, everything is equal on the Internet. On the other hand, without net neutrality, your ISP can discriminate. They can charge you more if you decide you want to visit certain websites like Netflix or Amazon or any website they feel like. They can slow down your Internet if you visit certain websites. They can even completely block certain websites, so you can’t access them at all. It lets ISPs control the Internet, manipulating it as they see fit, to benefit them, at your expense.

ISPs can further use this new freedom to control what content is available and what content is not. They can block content that they disagree with, content that doesn’t compile with the ISPs rules, or the content of small businesses that can’t afford to pay ISPs to allow their content. It allows ISPs to censor the Internet. And while this is not happening now, the potential that it could happen at any momeent is a concern. The Internet has always been a place of absolute freedom, where people can say what they want and pursue their dreams. But without net neutrality, that freedom that we have all enjoyed may be in jeopardy.

So, while no net neutrality may benefit the ISPs, it has the potential to severally hurt the people, censoring and controlling the Internet how the ISPs see fit. No net neutrality is still new here in the U.S., so we shall see how it impacts the Internet. So, watch the Internet, and watch your Internet bill.